Thanks to the idiosyncratic design and especially those blue VU meters, you can recognize Advance Paris products from afar. However, the French brand has a lot more to offer than a beautiful design. The marriage of the brand new X-P700 and the X-A600 immediately seems successful.
Advance Paris is a company that aims to seduce people who do not feel like traditional hi-fi equipment with its striking designs and more compact devices. The MyConnect devices, for example, are small and come with all possible functions. Yet in this review we look at two devices that are much more in that audiophile angle. The X-P700 and X-A600 are a preamp and power amplifier, a combination that takes up more space than those smaller devices. Typically something for the music lover who really wants to make room in the living room for a larger system. For this he or she gets more flexibility, power and the certainty that, among other things, a digital component has no impact on the final amplification. After all, they are in two separate housings. Advance Paris clearly believes that the eye wants something too. That is why the X-A600, which was only presented at High End Munich, is not an anonymous output stage. Two immense VU meters with blue illuminated text and red hands make it a real eye-catcher. Advance Paris previously released the X-A1200 monoblocks. They are even more powerful, but of course you need two if you want to control two speakers. The X-A600 stereo output stage is a bit more convenient (and more affordable).
The French brand also stands for offering many features for a reasonable price. The Advance Paris X-P700 preamplifier costs just under 1,400 euros, while the X-A600 offers 2 x 200 Watts (at 8 Ohm speakers) for 2,900 euros. That’s something. Really typical for Advance Paris is that you can switch the output stage in class A, in which case you can count on 2 x 45 Watts. If you need more, the amplifier switches seamlessly to class AB. We think that’s very special!
|What||Advance Paris X-P700 Stereo Preamp|
|Inputs||7 x analog cinch, phono-in (MM/MC), XLR, 2 x optical, coaxial, USB class B, USB class A|
|outputs||pre-out cinch and XLR, 2 x sub-out, pre-out high frequencies (bi-amping), 2 x trigger-out, 2 x headphones (3.5 + 6.3 mm)|
|crossovers||220 and 3,000 Hz|
|Dimensions||43 x 12 x 28 cm|
|What||Advance Paris X-A600 Stereo Power Amplifier|
|Assets||2 x 200 Watts (8 Ohms), optional up to 2 x 45 Watts in class A|
|Connections||A + B speakers, optional bi-wiring terminals|
|Dimensions||43 x 21 x 46.4 cm|
If you’re looking for audio devices with their own face, then you’ve come to the right place at Advance Paris. Advance Paris – formerly known as Advance Acoustics – has a preference for devices with few buttons and LEDs that emit dark blue light. Also typical is a tightly drawn front panel that appears to consist of one piece of black glass. In reality, it is rather a high-quality plastic, but with a beautiful appearance. The VU meters that adorn many of the products of the French brand are also really something of the Parisians. You can also set the brightness. Handy if you like to watch TV in a darkened room, for example.
The first thing that catches our eye when we set up this combination? That the preamplifier has far fewer buttons and keys than the output stage. Usually it is the other way around. On a power amplifier you usually only notice an on/off button, while on a preamp you discover a volume control, input selection and perhaps tone control. So not here. Or is it? The secret to the Advance Paris X-P700 preamp is that that big volume knob in the middle is multi-functional. Pressing several times will scroll through different options. Pressing once lets you quickly switch between inputs, holding down further lets you toggle things like tone control, loudness, and more on or off. You’ll also discover an option here to run the preamp in Class A or AB, with the option to operate in one of two tri-modes. Given that you won’t be adjusting these options very often, this elegant one-button solution works just fine. Selecting inputs is the task that you will perform the most, and you probably do that via the remote control anyway. It is beautifully finished and allows you to operate almost everything. By the way, the X-P700 has a blue retro display to indicate volume changes and the active input.
On the X-A600 power stage, there are two larger rotary knobs next to the power button. With this you set those meters and switch between speaker pairs A and B. After all, the device is ready for two pairs of speakers that you can also use simultaneously. At the back, however, you’ll find three pairs of speaker terminals. Why one extra? That’s because the X-A600 has a custom mode for speakers you want to bi-amp. Two speakers will then run to each speaker instead of the conventional one. In general, you control the woofer(s) with one amplifier channel and the midrange driver and tweeter with another. Bi-amping is not for everyone and you must have speakers with four speaker terminals. If you want to experiment with it, it is handy that this Advance Paris output stage makes it easy. With many other output stages you have to build a more complex setup if you want to bi-amp. Internally, the X-A600 is impressively constructed. Nice, how the whole is divided into six separate compartments, with thick partitions between each. That front panel with its VU meters is also completely shielded. Or the enormous toroidal transformer or the enormous cooling fins on the output stages. It all points to a well-thought-out design that focuses on minimizing malfunctions. It’s also clear that good ventilation was high on the design menu. Or the enormous toroidal transformer or the enormous cooling fins on the output stages. It all points to a well-thought-out design that focuses on minimizing malfunctions. It’s also clear that good ventilation was high on the design menu. Or the enormous toroidal transformer or the enormous cooling fins on the output stages. It all points to a well-thought-out design that focuses on minimizing malfunctions. It’s also clear that good ventilation was high on the design menu.
The Advance Paris X-P700 is built completely dual-mono. That means the two stereo channels are completely deduplicated, starting with separate toroidal power supplies for left and right. This should minimize crosstalk where the channels influence each other. The designers state that they especially wanted to keep the digital part as short as possible. Since the preamp has many digital inputs, the DAC part is very important. Advance Paris chose to build it around the Burr Brown PCM1792DB. In our tests, we were able to play up to 352.8 kHz / 24-bit and DSD256, which covers almost all hi-res formats. You can read on the blue display what exactly is being played in terms of format.
Lots of connections
If you are going to work with a preamp and power amplifier, it seems to us that you would like a prestage with the maximum of possibilities. A message that Advance Paris has understood when we see the back of the Advance Paris X-P700. You will not soon be short of entrances here. There are three digital inputs (one coax, two optical), you connect a computer or network transport via the USB class B port, and then there are nine analog inputs. We’re just sorry that only one of these consists of a pair of balanced XLR inputs. Two pairs would have been better, given the audiophile target audience. The fact that you do get a very complete phono part makes up for a lot. Advance Paris goes further than just supporting MM cartridges, as is usually the case in this price segment. However, the X-P700 can also handle MC cartridges, both high and low impedance. You can choose between 100, 200 or 320 Ohms.
At the inputs, we should also not forget the USB port to which you can connect a disk or stick to play music files directly. It’s more of an emergency option, because searching and playing files isn’t very user-friendly. But it can. But if you regularly want to play your own music files or streaming, it is better to invest in the Bluetooth adapter or a network player. For example, for this test, we used iFi Audio’s Zen Stream, which we connected to the P-X700’s DAC via a USB cable.
Also when it comes to exits, the French score a nice goal. You connect an output stage unbalanced with cinch cables or balanced with XLR. There are additional pre-outs and a sub-out for those who want to build a more extensive system.
We also notice that Advance Paris sometimes makes idiosyncratic choices from the remarkable connector at the top right. This is for an optional X-FTB02 Bluetooth adapter. Connect this to the Advance Paris X-P700 and you can stream directly to the preamp, including support for aptX.
On the front we discover not the usual one headphone output but two pieces. Strangely enough, it concerns one of 3.5 mm and one of 6.3 mm, which you can set independently of each other. That you do this via switches at the back is not super convenient, but you can set the output impedance and the gain. Those are useful and unusual options on a preamp.
Class A or AB?
The X-A600 lets you switch between pure class A (pre)amplification or full class AB, which is quite unusual. You do have other hi-fi builders, especially Arcam with class G technology, which start in class A and switch to AB when greater power is required. Really offer the music lover a choice, as Advance Paris does here? We cannot immediately think of an example of another brand.
What you do notice when you switch on the high-bias mode with the X-A600: the device gets a bit warmer. The power consumption is therefore a bit higher, we read on the control panel of the Isotek Smart Power. But because the large transistors are only continuously supplied with current up to about 45 Watts, the difference is not that bad.
Also with the X-P700 there is a choice between a class A mode (which should mean a sound comparable to a tube amplifier) and a more classic class AB mode. On a quick read, that might seem like the Class A option on the X-A600, but it’s something different. So it makes sense to examine both options.
Relaxed overall picture
The marriage of these two Advance Paris devices quickly strikes us as a very successful one if you like a soft warm glow and a relaxed performance. Obviously, those two class A or no choices have a significant impact on what you hear. And the choice of loudspeakers is also very decisive.
When testing the Advance Paris combination, we closed the Canton Reference 7 K speakers that were still parked in the test room. They are sturdy floorstanders that are relatively easy to control. So perfect to judge that class A mode; with demanding loudspeakers, the amplifier may switch to class AB mode very quickly. We listened to most of the music via the Zen Stream that hangs on the USB class B port and that we control from Roon. TV sound is also discussed. That is not difficult to arrange, just the Sony KD-65AF9 connect to the X-P700 via an optical cable in the test room. That’s not a conventional scenario – but why not? With larger speakers such as these Cantons, you immediately have sufficient dynamic potential and bass reproduction to display films and TV series quite powerfully.
Finally, we’d like to review the Advance Paris X-P700’s phono preamp. Normally we would do that by connecting our excellent ELAC Miracord 90 to the Advance Paris, but for the past few months a Pro-ject X2 B has been set up with a Quintet Red MC cartridge. Appropriate given the MC support on the X-P700. But we are also trying it out with an X1 with PickIt Pro MM cartridge.
After some preliminary listening, we decide to leave the high bias option on the X-A600 enabled for the remainder of the review period. Although the difference between the regular and the high bias mode is not huge, we thought it sounded just a little quieter.
On the vinyl side, we bring out Feist’s ‘Pleasure’, a great album by Leslie Feist, the Canadian artist who was once associated with indie cult group Broken Social Scene. The phono part competently conveys the intimate, sometimes raw vocals, with a fine sense of detail. ‘Blue Lines’ by Massive Attack is another album that has just that little bit more on vinyl, at least we think, so that will also be discussed. Both with the X2 B and the X1 we get the impression that vocals are mainly centerstage and the finer detail, the low end is a bit more controlled. If we add the Primare R15 phono amplifier and connect the X1 in this way, we find the sound just a bit fuller. In short, the phono input on the X-P700 works well, but if you’re looking for a further upgrade, you can add something here. It is of course nice that you are not tied to one type of cartridge with the Advance Paris.
Time for a change of course. We take Beethoven’s Symphony N°9, performed by Britten Sinfonia conducted by Thomas Adès and recorded in 2019 in Barbican Hall (Qobuz, 192/24). We think it’s a fairly subtle performance of these classics that rather paints an overall picture of the entire orchestra, but with the exciting ‘II. Allegro vivace’ the instrument groups stand out more. The fierce dynamic jumps, with strings playing softly interspersed with loud pops on large timpani, the X-A600 handles without showing the slightest stress. There is certainly no lack of power. It also sounds very fluid and musical, a bit warm and soft, but above all: just real. You can hear that those timpani are bulky and reverberate throughout the room. The fact that the Cantons are a bit more dominant in the midbass really helps to envelop yourself in this symphony. We also had that experience with the well-known ‘Peer Gynt – In The Hall of The Mountain King’ performed by the English Chamber Orchestra. The soft build-up that works towards a crescendo really entices you, and when the whole orchestra erupts, the Advance Paris amps create a very spacious soundstage where the instruments working towards the frenetic, prestissimo finale are well defined. A beautiful presentation of this Grieg classic, although we do miss the screamed vocals at the end in this performance.
Conclusion – Advance Paris X-P700 and X-A600
It is very nice and especially relaxed listening to this combination. It’s a different character than the class D output stages from NAD and Primare that we recently had a visit. Those were also well-performing devices with a lot of power, what Advance Paris delivers is indeed slightly different. Better or worse, this is rather a case of taste. We were particularly struck by the fact that it came across as very relaxed and as a whole, which made the great classical works in particular more emotional. But other genres are also welcome.
The advantage of this set from Advance Paris is that you get a lot for a reasonable amount. That certainly applies to the Advance Paris X-P700 preamplifier, which is full of inputs and features. Anyone who thinks of a front and output stage combination may be more serious about hi-fi, which means higher price tags. It’s surprising then that you end up here at a lower price than what you might have expected – and still reap plenty of sound quality and engagement.
Pros of Advance Paris X-P700 and X-A600
- Lots of inputs and flexibility (Advance Paris X-P700)
- Good headphone output (X-P700)
- Unique design, beautifully executed
- Light warm, catchy sound
- Lots of power
Negatives of Advance Paris X-P700 and X-A600
- Streaming requires external adapter and is limited to Bluetooth
- Design is love it or hate it